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University of Ulster development challenge thrown out

University of Ulster plans to build a multi-storey car park at its new �250 million Belfast campus.

University of Ulster plans to build a multi-storey car park at its new �250 million Belfast campus.

A High Court judge has thrown out a challenge to the University of Ulster being given the go-ahead to build a multi-storey car park at a new £250 million Belfast campus.

Mr Justice Treacy ruled that Ellen Doyle had no legal standing to seek to overturn the granting of planning permission for the development on Frederick Street.

He said she had not participated at any stage in a process subject to public advertisement.

Friday’s verdict clears the way for the building of a 355-space car park along with a 707 sq metre retail unit, landscaping and pedestrian crossing.

It is expected to form part of a larger scheme for a new city centre campus described as the most important regeneration project in Belfast over the next decade.

The university’s original application for a 487-space car park was rejected for being too big.

The scheme also faced objections from some local residents and the Housing Executive because it will be built on land zoned for social housing.

But in February the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) approved the reduced size construction.

It ruled that the benefits of the wider redevelopment proposal outweighed the loss of sites for around 30 social housing units.

The wider university blueprint involves the construction of three buildings at Frederick Street, Donegall Street and Great Patrick Street.

With construction expected to begin next year, around 12,000 students are due to use the new facilities on courses relocated from the Jordanstown campus.

Ms Doyle went to court in a bid to judicially review the PAC decision.

Her application was resisted on points about a lack of standing and delay.

Under the relevant legislation anyone mounting such a legal challenge must have a sufficient interest in the issue.

Although both the original application for planning permission and the university’s appeal to the PAC were subject to public advertisement, Mr Justice Treacy noted that Ms Doyle responded to neither.

She insisted that she only found out about the PAC decision two months later.

But the judge held that being unaware of public advertisements could not be a sufficient basis to confer standing.

He said: “It would introduce uncertainty since a person not involved in the process could, as here, emerge late in the day to mount a challenge including seeking to rely on points not taken by any of the participants in the appeal and even though better placed challengers who actually participated in the process have not sought judicial review.”

He also refused to let her judicial review case proceed on the basis that it had not been brought promptly enough.

Dismissing all grounds of challenge, the judge added: “It is clear that the grant of leave would cause manifest prejudice and endanger the entire Greater Belfast Development Project, a project acknowledged to be the most important regeneration scheme for Belfast city centre for the next five-ten years.”

 

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